Across The Barricades


By Joan Lingard

The Author

Joan Lingard was born in Edinburgh but grew up in Belfast, where she lived until she was eighteen. She began writing when she was eleven, and has never wanted to be anything other than a writer. She is the author or more than twenty novels for younger people and twelve for adults. Joan Lingard has three grown - up daughters and now three grandchildren, and lives in Edinburgh with her Latvian/Canadian husband.

The Story

This is the second of Joan Lingard’s stories about the young Belfast couple Kevin McCoy and Sadie Jackson. They are now seventeen years old and live still in two different worlds.
Sadie’s family is protestant. She and her brother Tommy were taught by their father that Billy King is the good man and the bad one is the Pope.
Billy King’s real name is William of Orange, a Protestant who fought against the Catholics under James II in 1690. The "Twelfth" is the Protestant’s day of celebration and remembrance.
Kevin lives with his sister Brede, other six siblings and with his pregnant mother and his father in the catholic streets of Belfast. They are strictly catholic and their head is the Pope.
Both groups hate each other, which we can see when we look at the political situation in Northern Ireland.

Kevin meets Sadie on the street after a long time ago. They haven’t seen each other for nearly three years. In the first few weeks they kept in close contact but after some time they lost sight of each other.
After talking and eating in a cafĂ© for a while they decide to go up to Cave Hill. Outside the cafĂ© they meet Linda, an old school friend of Sadie. She isn’t very pleased to see Kevin so she edges away. While the bus is coming they are aware of something dangerous that will come.
The Jackson’s are in the kitchen, drinking their tea. Sadie’s mother is a little bit worried about the fact that Sadie still isn’t at home. But then Linda arrives and tells them that she saw Sadie at the bus stop with Kevin. The Jackson’s get a little shock after hearing these news. Then Tommy and Linda leave the house to watch a film. Tommy is angry with Linda because she told his parents about Sadie and Kevin but she thinks it was right to do.
Mrs and Mr McCoy talk about the British army while they are waiting for Kevin. Outside Brede’s younger brother Gerald is playing "cops and robbers" and their uncle Albert comes to ask for money. Brede decides to visit her friend Kate. They are talking about Kevin and the fight three years ago when suddenly the voices from the streets where Gerald is playing grow louder. The kids had hurt a soldier with a brick but he could hardly do anything about them so he and his partner turn and run away. Suddenly Brian Rafferty, an old friend of Kevin appears and began to support what Gerald had done. Brede quarrels little with him and then goes home.
Sadie and Kevin are on the top of Cave Hill looking down on the town. But then they leave and get to a cafĂ© where Sadie meets two girls who work in the same store. Sadie doesn’t like them very much because they are selfish. As they hear Kevin’s name they leave the cafĂ©. All of a sudden they begin to quarrel. Sadie can’t understand why Kevin’s mother has nine children and why the Pope makes them do it. But both regret it immediately and Kevin and Sadie walk hand in hand home.
Mrs Jackson is watching television when Mrs Mullet comes in. She sits down and began to talk about Tommy and Linda and that they’re a nice couple. But then she starts talking about Sadie and what Linda saw this day but Mrs Jackson cut her off. Then Mr Jackson comes home and Mrs Mullet goes. But she hears some words of Mrs Jackson who tells her husband that Mrs Mullet only comes over to tell her the latest gossip. Meanwhile Tommy, Linda and Steve, a schoolfriend of Tommy, are sitting in a cafĂ©. Both don’t understand why Tommy doesn’t want to join the Lodge like Steve. Tommy gets angrily and leaves with Linda. On their way home they meet Kevin and Sadie. Nobody knows what to say so Kevin goes. Linda begins to quarrel and Tommy threatens Linda that she won’t see him again if she tells her mum about Kevin. When Sadie gets home her parents are really angry. They shout at her and forbid her to see the Catholic boy again. Later Tommy talks to his sister but she won’t give up and will make her own mind.
When Kevin comes home Brede is still awake, waiting for him. He tells her about Sadie and that he will see her again. Next morning Kevin meets Brian on his way to work. His father is an alcoholic and her mother is a hysterical person. Brian stares at his friend when he says that he doesn’t know why fighting is good. In the evening he is in the kitchen of the McCoy’s, waiting for Kevin. Then he takes Kevin with him to show him a rifle and several ammunition under his bed. Kevin gets angry because everywhere the Army searches in every Catholic house. Brian insults him a coward and a traitor and threatens to hide it at the scrapyard where Kevin works. So Kevin decides to go but when he turns he sees Brian standing with the rifle in his hand pointing down on him.
Days later Kevin and Sadie take a bus to Bangor. They have a beautiful day there but suddenly they begin to quarrel about their religion again. Then it is time to leave but they are too late and passes the last bus to Belfast. So they have to hitch a lift. After a while a car stops, it is uncle Albert.
He takes them with him. After some time they smell burning rubber but Albert means that there is always a bit of smell in his car. But then they realize that smoke is coming out of the bonnet. So they have to abandon it and go home. At three o’clock in the morning they arrive Belfast. Kevin wants to bring Sadie home but on their way they meet Mr Jackson, Mr Mullet and Tommy.
After having an argument also Kevin’s temper soars. Suddenly Tommy sees two men coming up the street and so they all go home. On his way home he realizes a glow in the sky. A pub was burnt out. Carefully he walks on when a burst of machine gun fire makes him lay on the pavement. Two policemen help him and send him home. He meets Brian and tells him that because of the burnt pub all "do a bit of burning" themselves and Brian angrily reports him what Albert told him about Kevin and Sadie. But Kevin doesn’t mind and on the next day he is questioned by his parents and Brede. A little bit later Brede watches Brian and Kate who have their heads together and who are in a deep conversation. Also Sadie’s mother begins to believe that her daughter is still meeting Kevin McCoy. Meanwhile he is walking home when three boys attack him. He hasn’t any chance to win or even to see who this guys are but he knows one of the voices. It is Brian Rafferty. Then he faints.
After working in the nursery Brede wants to visit Sadie in the hat department. But the saleswoman tells her that she was fired this morning. She remembers the name of the street and walks into the protestant’s area. She can’t find the street so she asks for the right way at Mrs McConkey’s shop. Mrs Mullet is also there and immediately takes the girl with her. Then Brede can tell Sadie that Kevin was beaten up and that he has a lot of bruises and a cut on his head and she asks Sadie not to meet him again. But the girl can’t promise her.
Kevin’s family knows who has beaten him up but they can’t tell it the police because then he’ll be jumped again. He is waiting for Sadie when an old man and his dog come along the street. The boy doesn’t fell well so the man wants to bring him home. But then Sadie comes running and she knows the old man. It’s Mr Blake. Once it was her geography teacher. He drives them to his house and calls for the doctor. He lives in a quiet district without all the fights and disturbances. It is middle class. Sadie tells them her decision not to meet him again but Mr Blake invites them to his house for another day. When Sadie is at home she and her brother Tommy hear a loud bang. Mrs McConkey’s shop is going up in flames and she is dead. After that the Mullets come to have tea with the Jacksons and Mr Mullet suspects Brede to be a spy and that she could had the shop bombed. Sadie gets angry and shouts at her so that the family leaves.
On the next day Sadie visits Mr Blake. She got the sack and so he offers her to work for him like doing the household, cooking and so on. Then she meets his neighbour Moira Henderson. Sadie is fascinated when she hears that Moira is a Catholic and her husband a Protestant. And one day later Sadie can work at Moira’s as a nanny for her two children.
A few days later Mrs Kelly, the wife of Kevin’s employer and Kate’s mother, and Mrs McCoy are talking about the Protestant girl when suddenly Kevin’s mother asks to call the ambulance because the baby is on its way. Meanwhile Kevin is with Sadie, Mr Blake and the Hendersons in the park. Because of his injuries he is not allowed to work for several days. On his way home he meets Kate who asks him sadly if it’s all over with them. The boy doesn’t know what to say because he never felt anything for her so he says "yes" and goes home where Brede warns him that Kate can cause a lot of trouble because she is often around with Brian. But Kevin doesn’t care. This evening Sadie is bored so she walks to a cafĂ© to meet some old friends. Only Steve and Linda are there. He shouts at her that there are some people who don’t like her company and that she should be careful.
Later uncle Albert warns them that the police is having a search. Kevin goes out and sees that the soldiers are on the way to the Raffertys. Kevin thinks that they found the rifle because they are longer in this house than in any other. But they come out empty - handed. During the night the police visit to see Kevin. They found the box of Brian with the rifle where he works, at Mr Kelly’s scrapyard. They also claim that Kate saw how Kevin hid the box. They take him with them. In the morning Brede runs to the police station and tells the officer about Kate’s grudge against Kevin because he gave her the "go - by". So they come free. Mr Blake is already burning an anonymous warning letter when Kevin appears. He tells him what had happened during that night and that he beat Brian up in the morning. During the next night someone painted "A Traitor Lives Here" on Sadie’s house. In the morning Mr Blake, Sadie and Kevin decide to go for a trip. But while they are driving suddenly the off - side front wheel careers on down the road and then they crush against a wall. Nobody is hurt and soon the police arrives and sends them home. Next day two constables visit Mr Blake to tell him that it wasn’t an accident. The nuts of the wheels were loosened. They ask all about their friends and enemies and Mr Blake informs them about the warning letters. So Sadie and Kevin decide not to meet again at Mr Blake’s house and Kevin walks to Mr Kelly to go on working. But he fires him and he also can’t get any other job because he has no trade and isn’t apprenticed.
It is the twelfth day of July and all people join the parade. Only Sadie drives to Bangor where she meets Kevin for the first time for more than a week. He explains that he will leave Belfast if he can’t find a job. Some days later when Kevin is out to buy food Mr Kelly asks him to work for him again but he refuses. In the night there are a lot of disturbances and in the morning Mike Henderson arrives to tell Sadie that Mr Blake is dead. Someone threw a petrol bomb in his house last night. Some days later after the funeral Kevin tells his protestant girl friend his decision of leaving Belfast next week.
Then the day of Kevin’s leaving is coming. Also Kate appears to say she is sorry what had happened but he doesn’t bother about her. When he arrives the ship Sadie is waiting for him. But she isn’t there to say goodbye she waits to go with him to London.



Sadie’s opinion towards religion and the fights in Belfast had changed for about three years. When she met Kevin and Brede she realized that it is not important if someone is a Catholic or a Protestant. She is sick of the fights and the hostilities.
Now Sadie is seventeen and she stands much more on her own two feet than she did three years before. First she worked in an office and then she got a job in a linen mill. At the beginning of the book she worked in a hat department and then she got the job at Mr Blake’s. She always looks for a job on her own and she doesn’t need any help.
But in some points she hasn’t changed very much. She is still a rebel and often doesn’t follow her parents. She makes her own way and makes up her own mind also if it means that she gets into troubles. She is convinced of what she is doing and she is a brave girl. She leaves her parents and her home to sail with Kevin to London although she doesn’t know what will come.
She also often can’t keep her mouth shut if a person says something which is against her opinion. She forces herself not to day something but it doesn’t work most of the time.
She is also willing to give up Kevin so that he won’t be beaten up again and that also Mr Blake is safety.

Also he realized that the fights and hostilities are silly and don’t achieve anything good. He is more sick of this all than any other person in this book. That is why he decides to go to London. He hopes he can escape from all violence.
In many cases Kevin and Sadie are equal. He also doesn’t often follow his mother and father, he goes his own way and he does what he wants to do. He is restless like Sadie. He can’t sit for a while, he is always on his feet. But in some cases he really changed. Now he often thinks about what can happen if he does something without thinking about it before. He is aware of the consequences. He still gets into troubles in an easy way but only because other people can’t handle his decision to have a protestant girlfriend. He also sees that it wasn’t right to beat up Brian because you can’t solve a problem with violence and you deign to the same low level as other ones.


She is Kevin’s younger sister and she is the same nice and good girl who she was three years ago. She cares about Kevin and the other siblings and she helps her mother with the household. But she isn’t as shy as years before. She works as a nursery nurse and she is brave. She searches for Sadie in the Protestant area although she only knows the name of the street. And she is clever. She realizes that something bad is going on when she observed Brian and Kate.


He is Sadie’s brother. Three years ago he was much braver than he is now. He becomes quiet and he keeps out of everything. He and Linda Mullet are a couple. He doesn’t love her really he only likes her a bit. After some time he sees that Linda isn’t a good person and so he brings their relationship to an end.


She is like her mother. She loves to gossip and she hates all which doesn’t fit to the normal rules. For example she hates Kevin and tries to split the couple by telling lies about them. She doesn’t think, she only follows the opinion of other people like Steve or her mother. She still doesn’t know how life is.


Brian Rafferty is a brutal guy and a coward. He needed the help of two friends to beat Kevin up. And he and Kate try to betray him of the police. He doesn’t care about other people. It is only important what happens to him. He likes guns and fights and he hates the Protestants.


Years ago she and Brede were best friends but this friendship had stopped. She is in love with Kevin but he doesn’t feel anything for her. She is too young and stupid and because Kevin gives her the boot she wants to take revenge on him.

Mr Blake

Once he was Sadie’s geography teacher. He is a good man. He helped Kevin when he was hurt and he gives the couple the chance to meet at his house. But after some time he gets anonymous warning letters and a few weeks later a bomb destroyed his house and killed him.

One Point Out Of The Story

I think the main part of this story is the uncommunicativeness of the people. Most of them are blind, they don’t want anything new because often they feel frightened and threatened. Many people are afraid of changes because they don’t know them. And they are afraid of the possibility that everything can change, that nothing will be like it was before.
A lot of people believe too much in old values and can’t or won’t see that it is time for new things. People should be more open - minded. They should realize that nothing is only good or bad. And no one can always be right. People should accept other people’s opinion and attitude.
A good example are Kevin and Sadie. They made it possible to accept each others attitude. They could conquer their prejudices and left them behind them. In most cases the two kids didn’t hear what other people said. They did their own thing and went their own way. Kevin and Sadie didn’t give anyone the chance to put them off their way.
Their parents didn’t like their new life. They wished that all would be like it was years before. Parents often don’t accept new things as good as their children. They are much more open - minded.
But in many cases others are much more stubborn than parents. Because these are their children and it is their duty to support them and to be backing them all the way. Many of them like Kate, Linda, Steve and Brian were probably unconsciously jealous of the young couple because they found their great love and they didn’t hear what the other people said. They also didn’t see that Sadie and Kevin offered them a way to be and act like they had ever wished. They didn’t see it because they are too blind to realize such a chance and they never thought about this possibility because they themselves would have never done anything like that to other people.
So people should see the way of Sadie and Kevin as a chance to begin a new life, to live without prejudices and to make a better world.


There are a few points which Joan Lingard wants to tell us with her story about the young couple Sadie and Kevin.
First of all I think that she wants the people to be aware of what they do to other people and children with fights like in Northern Ireland. The people who fight for their aims often don’t see how they treat others. For them only their aims and their way is important. But for sorrow too many innocent people and also children get hurt or die while others want to achieve in what they believe. Many people realize what is going on not until a lot of persons are dead.

I think she also wants to show us that we should not involve our children in our fights. Take a look on the example of Brian. He had a rifle with ammunition and he also pointed on Kevin. He hasn’t any scruples about shooting him. How can we accept it that our children live under these conditions? Are we really as cold - hearted as it looks? Or are we afraid of what can happen if we go our own way. Joan Lingard wants that we live our own life like we want to do and we should defend ourselves against the people who want to tell us other things.

My Opinion

I still believe that the Kevin - and - Sadie - Stories are written for kids at the age around sixteen. For me and people in my age these books are too easy to read. There is no challenge any more. The book is written too shallow. You can find no real highlights only a few bigger incidents. There are no intensive dialogs between the main characters. There are beginnings to integrate the fights and the violence into the story but they should be more developed. I also think that the parents should play a more important role. They do it in our life too and I don’t think that real parents would step more in there children’s life. For a nineteen - year - old girl or boy the book is too easy and boring.

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